The Cherry-Roubaix will once again host the Michigan State Championship Road Race from high atop the Sugar Loaf Resort. And you guessed it. It’s a killer.
It’s the hardest course yet, constructed by a host of evil humans hell bent on destroying souls. The course’s start/finish returns to its rightful place at the spooky, desolate abandoned remains of the Sugar Loaf Resort. Overgrown and brooding, the site is a fitting starting point for a ridiculously tough circuit through Leelanau County.
After a few turns, the climb hits the first of two gradual climbs that aren’t rated. With summits like Narlock, Dufek and Sugar Loaf on the map, these two rises will easily be overlooked. However, the climbs on Schomberg heading north to M-22 are enough to sap the legs and may even cause some gaps for the inattentive.
Dufek, a long burning climb that turns the race back south, makes its debut in the Cherry-Roubaix. It’s been a poorly kept secret that the less famous and less ridden climb off M-22 would be added to the lap, but it deserves its place in the championship road race. Next to the sharp, steep demands of Narlock and Sugar Loaf, Dufek is relatively easy. It’s a completely different animal and suits the pure climbers capable of putting out a hard effort for accelerating numerous times, the best way to shed riders before the summit. With the long, flat drag south on French Road coming shortly after, the gaps at the summit may prove decisive, especially with a south wind on race day.
The race bypasses the right turn on Bodus and the inevitable left onto Schomberg heading south. The course is hard enough without the lumps of Schomberg, and the race organization decided against trying to incorporate a left hand turn in the race. Instead, the race heads south on French until two small climbs and a right bend turn the road into Gatzke. Heading downhill and west, it’s a flying few miles to the final two challenges of the circuit. After taking the left onto Narlock, riders have a rolling ride north on Lime Lake Road. It’s one of the most disrespected parts of the course every year. Tucked between two tough climbs, the high speed and power needed to stay fast are underestimated by attackers nearly every year.
After the right hand turn to M-22, it’s a gradual drag up to the right hand turn to the final climb. With a north wind, M-22 can be absolutely brutal. Gaps here are almost impossible to bridge, but riders in the lead group can hide well in the slipstream of those burying themselves to bring the team leaders to the base of Sugar Loaf. Sugar Loaf itself is a tough climb, but the deceptive flat at its top is often misjudged by climbers.
The 2012 Road Race will be an absolute battle of attrition. It’s a reckless prediction after one recon ride, but the lead group in many categories will number much less than 10, with big chunks of riders coming unglued early on.